Measures taken by France as concerns aviation safety to deal with the consequences of the COVID-19 epidemic

Published on Tuesday 23 March 2021

Overview of the measures taken by France to ensure the continuity of essential aviation operations and to help address COVID-19-related effects.

The DSAC wished to identify in detail how the 2020 health crisis had affected the level of civil aviation safety in France. Through an ad-hoc COVID safety issues portfolio derived from EASA work, DSAC examined the period from May to October 2020 by aggregating information from oversight activities, examination of national safety indicators and a detailed analysis of 8,000 safety event reports notified by the various operators.

The methodology and lessons learned from this work are presented in the study, and are supplemented by a series of recommendations for operators. The recommendations addressing safety management issues are applicable to all operators. The other recommendations are specific to the domains of Air Transport, Continuing Airworthiness, Air Navigation, Aerodromes, Ground Handling, and General Aviation. Each operator is expected to take into account both the safety management recommendations and the recommendations specific to its domain.

In the field of aviation safety, the consequences of the COVID-19 epidemic have given rise to issues mainly linked to the difficulties for individuals and companies to fulfil the conditions or carry out the formalities necessary to maintain valid certain certificates, ratings, approvals or authorisations.

This applies, for example, to qualifications and medical certificates held by flight crews, air traffic controllers and certain ground staff, authorisations held by transport and aerial work companies, aircraft certificates of airworthiness, etc.

In order to ensure the continuity of essential aviation operations during the crisis and to support the recovery of civil aviation when the time comes, DGAC France has taken a number of measures to deviate from or to adjust the conditions for maintaining certain validities or the conditions for carrying out operations. These provisions are accompanied, where necessary, by measures guaranteeing the level of safety of operations.

Where necessary, these measures have been coordinated with the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and/or with the other ministries involved at the national level (Defense, Interior, Overseas Territories).

Whenever measures are taken as exemption to European regulations, they are notified to EASA in accordance with the provisions of Regulation (EU) 2018/1139.

For organisations approved by DSAC, information and updates related to the evolving situation resulting from the Covid-19 epidemic are available on the Meteor website.

Aircrew

DGAC France implemented exemptions to the regulatory provisions relating to the periods of validity and deadlines for obtaining or renewing training, examinations, qualifications and certificates (including medical certificates).

To take into account the closing of DGAC examination centres between 16. March and 25. May 2020, measures have been taken to adapt the maximum durations provided for by the examination regulations (e.g. time to pass all the subjects of a theoretical examination, time between theoretical and practical examinations) and to define criterias for reallocating candidates on new examination sessions

Training organisations were informed of the possibility of extending the deadlines for corrective action plans.

Operators of flight simulation training devices (FSTDs) were informed of the possibility of extending recurrent assessments.

More information on Covid-19 : validité des formations, examens, qualifications et certificats

Aircraft Airworthiness

As soon as Spring 2020, relief and adaptation measures were taken with regard to :

  • operators of aircraft registered in France as well as personnel holding a Part-66 licence
  • organisations holding a French production licence or approval
  • organisations holding a French maintenance approval
  • organisations holding a French continuing airworthiness management approval

These measures where made in the following areas:

  • extension of certificates
  • approvals
  • authorisations or licences
  • the acceptance of unapproved modifications related to the management of the COVID-19 crisis (cabin freight, medical devices, etc.)

As the situation is changing, exemptions may continue to be granted on a case-by-case basis, depending on the nature of the restrictions in force as well as specifically identified operational needs.

More information on the OSAC website.

Operations

Derogatory measures were accepted as of the spring 2020 containment period, given the travel difficulties encountered by operators and the population, and the emergence of specific operational needs linked to the epidemic.

They have thus been put in place to allow the continuity of air operations, in particular with regard to medical transport by helicopter, repatriation flights and freight transport, among which:

  • carrying out commercial flights with passenger aircraft carrying only cargo in the hold and in the cabin with a small or no number of cabin crew members;
  • carrying out repatriation flights with a reduced number of Cabin Crew Members;
  • alternative stopover rest conditions when the crew cannot get off the plane for health reasons;
  • carrying out of public service missions of the SAMU type by helicopter companies;
  • conditional extension of the deadlines for operational training for pilots and cabin crew.

As the situation is changing, exemptions may continue to be granted on a case-by-case basis, depending on the nature of the restrictions in force as well as specifically identified operational needs.

More information on the Meteor website.

Air Navigation

Under specific conditions geared to their situation, air traffic controllers shall benefit from the extension of their unit, language proficiency, instructor and assessor endorsements until 15 November 2020.

The period of validity of ATCO medical certificates without associated limitations, except for optical corrections, which expire before 31 July 2020, is extended by 4 months. At the end of the 4 months, DSAC can, if conditions still require it or if it is necessary to stagger the medical examinations, extend the period of validity of the medical certificates for up to 15 November 2020.

Aerodromes

In order to continue to guarantee air passengers the best level of safety, the DSAC is continuing its mobilization to ensure the maintenance and continuity of its missions. As such, it maintains the planned airport oversight actions, in compliance with the health rules in force.

It will naturally take into account the context of reduction in air traffic and the associated impact on the activity of aerodromes for the proper performance of the missions incumbent on the oversight authority.

When necessary, the changes and the impact of the modifications that operators are likely to make to their methods and/or their organization will continue to be assessed and notified to the DSAC-IR having territorial jurisdiction, which may grant, if necessary, the necessary flexibility regarding the time limits and formalism of notification.

Other information

The initiatives helping to better manage the crisis and its various phases of COVID-19 show an interest in sharing analyzes and tools that can help the various entities of the aeronautical community. You will find on the Human factors > COVID-19 page [fr] the documents available whose general distribution has been accepted by their authors.